Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School

By Barrie Thorne | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Boys and Girls Together . . . But Mostly Apart

The landscape of contemporary childhood includes three major sites-- families, neighborhoods, and schools. Each of these worlds contains different people, patterns of time and space, and arrangements of gender. Families and neighborhoods tend to be small, with a relatively even ratio of adults and children. In contrast, schools are crowded and bureaucratic settings in which a few adults organize and continually evaluate the activities of a large number of children.1 Within schools, the sheer press of numbers in a relatively small space gives a public, witnessed quality to everyday life and makes keeping down noise and maintaining order a constant adult preoccupation. In their quest for order, teachers and aides continually sort students into smaller, more manageable groups (classes, reading groups, hallway lines, shifts in the lunchroom), and they structure the day around routines like lining up and taking turns. In this and the next chapter I trace the basic organizational features of schools as they bear upon, and get worked out through, the daily gender relations of kids. As individuals. we always display or "do" gender, but this dichotomous difference (no one escapes being declared female or male) may be more or less relevant, and relevant in different ways, from one social context to another.

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